Shadows of Inequity: Confronting the Mental Health Challenges Faced by Adolescents of Color

Shadows of Inequity: Confronting the Mental Health Challenges Faced by Adolescents of Color

July marks National Minority Mental Health Month, which was established to highlight the mental health burdens that non-white groups face in the United States. This observance honors Bebe Moore Campbell, an acclaimed author and advocate who dedicated her life to educating others about mental health and eliminating stigma among minority communities. 

This month is a time to reflect not only on the problems that drive challenges with regard to minority mental health but also on those that constrict the accessibility and quality of mental health services for minority groups, particularly adolescents in these groups.

How Forms of Systemic Racism Drive Poor Mental Health in Teens

Adolescents of color in the United States face higher rates of significant mental health challenges compared to their white peers. Examples of social and environmental stressors that drive poor mental health include:

  • Poverty and violence in disinvested or underinvested communities, where families of color are disproportionately obligated to reside
  • Under-resourced public schools in underinvested communities
  • Conscious discrimination and implicit racial bias toward non-white children and teens
  • Greater losses of jobs and family members during the pandemic
  • Police and civilian violence against Black Americans
  • Increased risk of homelessness
  • Higher rates of sexual harassment for teen girls

Mental Health Struggles That Impact Adolescents of Color

Racially driven stressors frequently cause or intensify a range of mental health challenges for teens of color:

  • Trauma or trauma exposure. Adolescents of color are more likely to experience direct trauma or be exposed to it, which can result in post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders.
  • Depression and anxiety. Rates of depression and anxiety are significantly higher among Black youth, influenced by factors such as racial discrimination and social exclusion.
  • Chronic stress. Experiencing racial bias in everyday interactions, combined with racially driven environmental stressors, can lead to chronic stress. This can cause or worsen other mental health challenges and disorders.
  • Suicidal tendencies. There is a troubling rise in suicide rates among Black teenagers, pointing to the urgent need for accessible mental health interventions and support.

Barriers to Mental Health Care

Studies indicate that young individuals of color are less likely to receive mental health care than non-Hispanic whites. Barriers to effective care can include:

  • Underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis. Symptoms of mental illness in adolescents of color are often overlooked or misinterpreted, leading to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis and, consequently, inadequate treatment.
  • Socioeconomic constraints. Economic disparities often prevent access to mental health services. Many minority families lack health insurance or reside in areas with insufficient mental health resources.

Help Teens of Color Improve Their Mental Health With ReGroup Foundation

ReGroup Foundation is a nonprofit that helps preteens and teens as well as their families anonymously share and benefit from mental health success stories. Too often, the best resources and practices in teen mental health care remain under the radar. 

We want all families to benefit from the triumphs of those who have “been there, done that” where racially driven barriers to wellness and other mental health issues are concerned. We make this possible by collecting family reviews of local mental health caregivers and facilities as well as personal strategies to help teens recover from wellness challenges.

In only 15 minutes, you can begin making a world of difference in the lives of other teens and their families — just by anonymously sharing your successes. Register today and start sharing your reviews and mental health insights!

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